real life

"Nighttime is the hardest part." How I became comfortable being single.

Nighttime is the hardest part.

Days roll on. Distractions. Life. Dogs to be walked, work to be done, weights to be lifted, food to eat.

I don’t feel the pull throughout the day. That something’s missing. That there’s something empty inside of me. A space no amount of distractions can fill.

Loneliness.

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It waits in the shadows during the day. Sometimes I can feel it moving amongst my interactions, but if I duck my head and stay occupied, I forget it’s there. 

Until the night. The night is when there’s nothing for it to hid behind. To separate it from me. Loneliness swirls around my head and heart, the coiling snake of an invisible feeling.

The memory of someone once there with me watching television. Or opening a bottle of wine with me. Or letting my hand curl around her chest as we give ourselves up to sleep. Memories. Loneliness.

But that’s okay.

Because while there will always be times of loneliness, it’s more important to be comfortable being single.

You don’t need to love yourself. You need to understand yourself.

It’s a phrase tossed around like lollies at Halloween. "You need to love yourself before you can love someone else."

But how does one love oneself?

Wouldn’t it require going full narcissist mode? If so, I know plenty of people who have entered full loving themselves mode.

The concept of loving yourself before loving someone else is flawed. You don’t need to fall in love with yourself. No, you need to understand yourself. You need to accept yourself.

And the only way to fully understand what makes you who you are is to be on your own. To be single. 

It requires separation and loneliness. Because when you don’t have that other person to lean on, you’re forced to grow and lean on yourself.

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I have a few friends who jump relationship to relationship like a frog hopping from one lily pad to the next. 

Whether they crave the cocktail of chemicals released by the brain during the early stages of a new relationship or they can’t stand on their own doesn’t matter. Because the relationships always come to a crashing end in similar fashions and they’re left wondering why it failed or why all men are jerks.

The question of whether all men are jerks is debatable. But in truth the relationship failed (again) because they have yet to take the time to grow on their own, to understand themselves, to lean on themselves. Because when you’re constantly leaning on someone else there’s nothing else you can do but fall when they shift.

Discovering yourself, understanding yourself.

I can’t tell you how long I’ve been single.

It’s not that I don’t want to. I honestly can’t remember how long it’s truthfully been. 

There have been the occasional bits of dating someone for short periods of time, but nothing worth telling mum about (to me, once mum knows then it’s something real and I’m no longer single).

Following my divorce, I went through about as many emotions as there are tulips in the Netherlands. One emotion would bloom, wither, die, and be replaced by another.

Some emotions I held back. Others I fought. I’d yell through them or cry with them. I’d try to push them away with alcohol or pointless sex. But all that did was delay the process. It stunted my personal growth and understanding.

It wasn’t until I accepted life as it had become that I started to understand myself. I didn’t love myself. I didn’t hate myself. I was who I was, but I was finally beginning to understand what made me that way.

Understanding couldn’t come about when searching for another relationship. 

Distractions can often block the gate leading to understanding. And to be truly happy, it’s so important to make it through that gate.

The months into years into more years left me wandering. Not that I was lost, I just didn’t know what to look for. Eventually, I discovered I was looking for myself.

Being comfortable being single allowed me to learn more about myself than I’d ever imagined. 

In ways, it sounds strange to "learn about yourself," because shouldn’t you know everything there is to know? You are the book of yourself, and yet that still requires you to open it up and read. What you read might surprise you. And you can’t read about yourself if you’re reading about someone else all the time.

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The solid foundation of understanding.

Being comfortable being single will lead to that stronger understanding of yourself. And that stronger understanding will give you a solid foundation for which to stand on.

You don’t need to rely on someone else. You don’t need anyone else. Because you’re strong, and nothing can push you over. Nothing can knock you down. Because while others never learned how to remain upright without the help of another, you’ve found your footing. Your anchor. Your foundation. All because you accepted being single and embraced it.

Nobody said you need to remain single forever. Nobody even said you have to enjoy it. But you can embrace it and make the most of it. Because making the most of being single will help you make the most of every future relationship. Something those who never found their footing and are perpetually dating are unable to do.

A film graduate from the Savannah College of Art and Design, Greyson has reflected on love, life, and everything in between for USA Today, Lonely Planet, Yahoo, and in his own books. When not writing he can be found travelling with his two pups or enjoying a beer with good friends.

You can find Greyson on Twitter, or subscribe to his newsletter.

Feature Image: Getty.

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